Herculaneum Project
 
Herculaneum archaeological site
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View of Herculaneum with Mount Vesuvius in the distance. When Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, Herculaneum was submerged under pyroclastic surges and flows. The ancient city now lies under a layer of tuff more than 15 meters (50 feet) thick. Two- and three-story buildings have been excavated over the years. Photo: Francesca Piqué

Herculaneum archaeological site
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The site of Herculaneum. Buried under 15 meters of volcanic material, Herculaneum contains examples of some of the best preserved ancient Roman architecture with with preserved upper stories in a dense urban fabric. Photo: Beril Bicer-Simsir

Herculaneum archaeological site
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Herculaneum, along with Pompei, is one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the Vesuvian region, inscribed on the World Heritage List. Photo: Leslie Rainer

laser speckle interferometry
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Scientists from the GCI have tested a newly developed non-invasive method for detecting voids behind the surface of wall paintings, plasters and mosaics, using laser speckle interferometry. Here, the team is demonstrating the technique on site in Herculaneum. Photo: Leslie Rainer

conservators at work at Herculaneum
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The GCI team has assisted conservators working with HCP to evaluate materials used in injection grouting of architectural surfaces. Tests developed or modified at the GCI were used on site to carry out these evaluations. Photo: Leslie Rainer

polynomial texture mapping
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Innovative and non-invasive polynomial texture mapping was used to document the condition of the wall painting scenes in the Casa del Bicentenario. With this system, lighting can be changed over the surface of the painting to highlight flaking of the paint layers. Over time, this method can be used to monitor the condition of the wall paintings. Photo: Leslier Rainer

polynomial texture mapping
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Innovative and non-invasive polynomial texture mapping was used to document the condition of the wall painting scenes in the Casa del Bicentenario. With this system, lighting can be changed over the surface of the painting to highlight flaking of the paint layers. Over time, this method can be used to monitor the condition of the wall paintings to determine if the deterioration is active and the extent of loss over time. Photo: Leslier Rainer

Visual induced luminescence method
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FIGURE A. Visual induced luminescence (VIL) is a non-invasive method that can identify the pigment, Egyptian blue. This method was used extensively in the Casa del Bicentenario to determine the painting technique and the extent of the use of this pigment on the wall paintings. Figure A shows a detail of one of the medallions in visible light. Photo: Giacomo Chiari

Visual induced luminescence method
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FIGURE B. Visual induced luminescence (VIL) is a non-invasive method that can identify the pigment, Egyptian blue. This method was used extensively in the Casa del Bicentenario to determine the painting technique and the extent of the use of this pigment on the wall paintings. Figure B shows the same detail using VIL. Photo: Giacomo Chiari

conservators at work at Herculanuem
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Conservators and scientists are collaborating to understand original and intervention materials and mechanisms leading to the extensive flaking on these exquisite and vulnerable wall paintings. Photo: David Carson

Professor Giorgio Torraca
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Professor Giorgio Torraca, scientific consultant to the Herculaneum Conservation Project, initiated the diagnostic investigation of the deterioration of the painted figurative scenes, working closely with conservators and scientists from the GCI. Photo: Giacomo Chiari

Herculaneum - detail of wall painting deterioration
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Conservators and scientists are working together to better understand the flaking and powdering paint of figurative scenes on wall paintings, a typical condition at the site and in the greater Vesuvian archaeological region. These wall painting scenes, uncovered in the 1930s show extensive deterioration, much of which has occurred since excavation. Photo: Emily MacDonald-Korth

conservation survey of wall paintings
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The project team is carrying out a survey of figurative wall painting scenes at the site. Comparisons will be made with painted scenes from different houses that have been treated, untreated wall painting scenes from recently excavated sites (including the Villa dei Papiri), and from examples found in museum storage. Photo: Shin Maekawa

conservation image
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Giacomo Chiari (GCI) and Francesca Piqué (consultant) collect samples from one of the painted scenes in the Casa del Gran Portale for comparison with samples collected from the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario. Photo Giorgio Torraca

wall painting scene Herculaneum
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Figure A. The wall painting scenes in different houses are being documented and compared with the wall painting scenes in the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario. Figure A is an overall photo of one wall with a figurative scene in the Casa del Atrio Mosaico. Photo: Leslie Rainer

detail - wall painting scene
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Figure B. The wall painting scenes in different houses are being documented and compared with the wall painting scenes in the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario. Figure B is a close up of the scene. Photo: Leslie Rainer

wall painting scence Herculaneum
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This wall painting scene in the Casa del Atrio a Mosaico shows two deer framed in a laurel motif. Photo: Leslie Rainer

wall painting scene Herculaneum
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Wall painting scene of two birds in the Casa del Gran Portale. Photo: Leslie Rainer

wall painting scene Herculaneum
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Wall painting scene in the Casa Sannitica showing Europa and the Bull. Photo: Leslie Rainer

weather station at Herculaneum
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A weather station has been installed at the Casa del Bicentenario to monitor the environmental conditions in and around the Tablinum as part of the diagnostic investigation into the deterioration of the wall painting scenes. Photo: Leslie Rainer

conservation documentation at Herculaneum
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The team is carrying out written, graphic, and photographic documentation of the wall paintings in the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario. The evaluation of conditions combined with the environmental monitoring and the diagnostic investigations provide a basis for developing a holistic and comprehensive approach to the conservation. Photo: Leslie Rainer

conservation documentation at Herculaneum
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The team carrying out written, graphic, and photographic documentation of the wall paintings in the Casa del Bicentenario. The evaluation of conditions combined with the environmental monitoring and the diagnostic investigations provide a basis for developing a holistic and comprehensive approach to the conservation. Photo: Emily MacDonald-Korth

conservation work at Herculaneum
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Conservators are performing treatment testing to develop methods and materials for conservation of the wall painting scenes. Photo: Leslie Rainer

mosaic pavement at Herculaneum
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The mosaic pavement in the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario will be conserved as part of the focused field project to conserve the Tablinum of the Casa del Bicentenario. A preliminary examination of the mosaic was performed, based on visual assessment and comparison with historic photographs of the mosaic pavement when it was first excavated in 1938. Photo: Leslie Rainer